Essential tips for forming a primary board of management

Alison O’Neil, Volunteer Officer 

As we approach the conclusion of the current primary school board’s term in November, the commencement of the new board’s term is set for December 1st, 2023.  While many principals and chairpersons may already be familiar with this process, a helpful guide on forming the board of management may be of benefit. 

While the formal responsibility for appointing the board of management and its nominees lies with the patron, in practical terms, the involvement of board members and the school principal is essential for successfully navigating the board formation process. 

We are sure that in most schools, arrangements are well underway for electing members to boards, but in schools where this has not yet been organised, we urge you to arrange to hold nomination and election processes for Teacher nominees and Parent nominees in the coming weeks.   

There are eight members on every primary school board of management 

One principal/secretary to the board 

The principal (or acting principal) is automatically a member of the board and is the secretary to the board. 

Two patron nominees 

The patron appoints two patron nominees to the board; one of these nominees will be the chairperson.  The patron interviews each candidate and checks references and matches new candidates to boards.  Once appointed to the board, they are usually referred to as the chairperson and the patron nominee.  

Patron nominees/chairs sometimes wish to remain on the board, i.e., be re-nominated; in that instance they should complete the Patron Nominee/Chairperson Re-nomination Form. Note that it is not an automatic re-nomination and in some situations the patron may nominate a new candidate to the board. 

Sometimes a school principal or board member recommends a new candidate for patron nominee or chairperson. This may be a former parent nominee or a former community nominee or someone completely new.  These candidates should complete this Board of Management Patron Nominee application form (please note this is a different form to the one above). 

Where the board or the school does not have a candidate for the patron nominee roles, the patron will work to find a suitable candidate. In that instance, if we are aware of your vacancy, we have been working over the summer months to recruit suitable candidates.  If you haven’t informed of us of relevant vacancies, please contact us at Note: we are still seeking chairpersons in some areas so please continue to spread the word amongst your personal and professional networks. 

One teacher nominee 

Teacher nominees are elected from teaching staff working at the school on contracts of no less than 6 months duration.  See Appendix A (page 54) of Governance Manual for Primary Schools 2019 to 2023* for details.  These elections should take place so that the nominee is ready for 1st December. Staff eligible to vote must be given at least ten days’ notice in writing and do not forget to notify teachers who are on leave who may also be eligible to be nominated and/or vote.   

Please note, a teacher may be re-nominated/re-elected but must stand as a candidate, it is not an automatic re-nomination. 

Two parent nominees 

The board of management must arrange for the parents and guardians at the school to nominate and elect parent nominees.  This is done using either option 1 (meeting) or option 2 (separate ballot).  Please see Appendix B (page 58) of Governance Manual for Primary Schools 2019 to 2023*. It is advised to complete this process by mid-November; some schools opt to do it on the same evening as the Parents’ Association AGM (Annual General Meeting).  Please note, it is not within the formal remit of the Parents’ Association to organise these elections. 

The parents/guardians nominated to the board must be one male and one female.   

The board is advised to keep a record of the results of the nomination/election process as they may be used in future to co-opt a parent onto the board if a parent steps down.   

Please note parent nominees may be re-nominated/re-elected but must stand as a candidate; it is not an automatic re-nomination. 

A parent whose child has just left the school remains on the board until 30th November 2023 because it is the last year of that board.  In all other years of the board’s term, the parent steps down as soon as their child leaves school.  

Two community nominees 

Once the above 6 nominees are in place, they meet to formally nominate the community nominees. In practice, we advise boards to recruit community nominees in the coming weeks so that they can be formally nominated to the board in December 2023. Consider the skill base the board has from the above 6 members and seek to appoint community nominees with the skills required.   

Role of treasurer 

Each board of management must appoint a treasurer from among the eight members.  It is sometimes worth advertising this fact when seeking nominations from parents, as it may draw out someone with the skills needed.  The teachers or the chairperson may not take on the role of treasurer, so the community nomination is sometimes used to find a suitable candidate for the role of treasurer. 

Length of service 

The Charities Regulator advises that for good governance an individual should serve no more than nine years on any board of management.  Patron nominees may opt to sit on the board of another school if they wish to step down from their current role.  We are particularly interested in hearing from former chairpersons who may wish to chair another board.   

Gender balance 

Where male and female candidates are available, we do our best to nominate males and females to the board.  Please be cognisant of gender balance when seeking community nominations. An equal balance is ideal, but a ratio of any less than three to five is best avoided if possible. 


Boards are encouraged to actively seek community nominees that reflect the diversity of the student body and the broader community. They should also identify and address any potential barriers to participation to promote a diverse range of nominees, especially when inviting applications from parents. 

Please contact Alison at for queries not covered above. 

*A new Governance Manual for Primary Schools 2023 to 2027 has been published but takes effect on 01 December 2023 and does not yet apply to current boards.